Stay-at-Home restrictions are easing and the beautiful Colorado summertime is blooming. You’re probably ready to head outside for some fresh air, and it's a great idea! Spending time outside is proven to boost both mental and physical health. And, getting away from the cycle of everyday life can help you reset from stressful situations and re-focus on the future. As Colorado begins to loosen restrictions from Covid-19, access to the wild places of Colorado is opening up. While the beauty of spending time in nature has never been so appealing, remember that responsible recreation is more important than ever. Before hitting the trail, check out these 9 tips to stay safe, responsible, and get the most out of your time in Colorado this summer.
9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Colorado Hiking This Summer
1. Check for Restrictions and Closures
You may still encounter restrictions or closures in Colorado, especially if you’re planning to camp out or backpack. Check with government websites and offices before you go to ensure your itinerary is good to go. For information on Rocky Mountain National Park, check out www.nps.gov. For information about hiking and camping in Colorado National Forests, look at www.fs.usda.gov.
2. Do Your Research
Once you know that the place you want to visit is open and ready, do your research about the area you’re visiting. Get any permits you need. Make sure you’re familiar with the trail systems, weather patterns, and any wildlife concerns. Check the weather and plan accordingly. In general, a good rule of thumb for Colorado hiking is to make sure that you’re off of any type of exposed ridge-line or peak before noon. Afternoon thunderstorms are common and dangerous. To calculate how long your hike should take you, use the following guidelines. Plan for 1 hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation you are gaining, and 1 hour for every 2 miles you are hiking. Make sure to budget time for snack breaks, lunch, and enjoying the scenery!
3. Pack the 10 Essentials
The 10 essentials are 10 items that you should have with you anytime you venture outside for the day. Having these items on hand will make sure you're prepared in case of an unexpected emergency, or if your hike takes longer than you expect. If you need a refresher, you can find a list of what the 10 Essentials are here.
4. Keep Your Group Small
In light of Covid-19, many areas are restricting groups of more than 10 people. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a group trip. If hiking in a group, be respectful of others on the trail and give those hiking faster room to pass.
5. Be Aware of Altitude
Here in Colorado, we are blessed with access to amazing peaks and pristine alpine lakes. Many of the gems of Colorado hiking are located at high elevation, and some are easy to access. It can be easy to gain a few thousand feet of elevation in a short time due to high altitude roads and trails. It’s important to be aware of what elevation you live at, and track how much you gain. Altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of their fitness level or previous experience at high elevations. Effects of altitude sickness can range from unpleasant to dangerous. The best way to make sure your hike doesn’t get cut short due to altitude sickness is to acclimate to elevation. This means to gain elevation gradually, sometimes over the course of a few days. If you do begin to experience signs of altitude sickness on your hike, it might be time to turn around.
6. Respect Communities
Many of the towns that are gateways to Colorado’s best hiking are small and often do not have a large medical system. As a visitor, make sure you respect and protect these communities by following posted precautions. This could mean wearing a mask when in crowded areas, using hand sanitizer, and practicing physical distancing. Additionally, show respect by following Leave No Trace Principles. Some facilities and services that usually run may temporarily closed. You should be prepared to carry out your trash and be ready in case bathroom facilities are not open (toilet paper should ALWAYS be packed out).
7. Be Flexible
If you show up to a crowded trailhead, be prepared with a few other hikes that you can choose instead. Consider visiting popular trailheads outside of peak hours and times. Be patient with other visitors. Unexpected closures and changes in protocols may be frustrating, but if you’re willing to be flexible, you can still enjoy the beauty of Colorado hiking this summer!
8. Fuel Your Body
When you head out to the trailhead this summer, make sure you’ve got everything you need to fuel your body properly. Food and water are essential making sure your hike is enjoyable. Plan to bring around 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking (and remember, too much is better than too little). When packing food, you’ll want healthy snacks and meals that provide a mix of protein and carbs. And don’t forget the salt- you’ll want a few salty snacks to replenish what you lose while sweating. Need some inspiration? Check out Gritty Gourmet to find trail-ready recipes for your next adventure.
9. Consider Joining a Guided Trip
If you’re visiting a new area, unsure of the current guidelines, or want a break from planning, consider joining a guided trip. Professional guides stay up-to-date on all protocols and closures and meet or exceed safety measures. Additionally, they have advanced training in wilderness medicine and are equipped to handle unexpected situations. To explore a day of Colorado hiking or climbing with an expert guide, check out trip offerings by ApexEx here.